Barnes & Noble Incorporates In Germany, Closest Sign Yet Of European Nook Launch

Just as Amazon is launching a new versions of the Kindle in Europe (but not the Fire tablet, yet), one of its big competitors is taking one more step in its bid to enter the European market: Barnes & Noble has incorporated a new company, Barnes & Noble Digital Media GmbH, in Germany.

B&N incorporated the German company on March 15, just around the time that the U.S. company came to London to promote the Nook to developers.

Apart from the fact that having a digital presence is essential for any bookseller looking to take a piece of growing revenues for e-books, expanding outside of the U.S. market is crucial for B&N if it wants to get more scale for the Nook — an important part of attracting more developers to the ecosystem and also improving its margins on the tablet. Currently the Nook only has around a 3.5 percent share of the market, according to IDC.

According to a report in the German-language Buchreport (Google translation here), the company will be based in Berlin. The report says that Eugene DeFelice will be running the operation; according to this Reuters profile, he is currently the VP, general counsel and corporate secretary of the company. It’s not clear whether this is an interim or permanent appointment.

When B&N hit London last week for its developer event, many came away from the sessions, on building for the Nook platform, with the sense that the idea of pitching to European developers was not yet fully formed. For starters, billing requires U.S. bank accounts, and getting paid for your apps would only be in U.S. dollars.

During the event, the company would not confirm whether the event was organized in the lead-up to launching its Nook tablet on this side of the pond. B&N’s director of developer relations, Claudia Romanini, said that there was no intention of opening B&N stores abroad — another reason it might partner with local companies to launch something, since she also noted that a key part of Nook marketing was around in-store promotions.

Indeed, there have been rumors swirling for months now that B&N will partner with large booksellers here to move ahead on such a strategy. In the UK, many believe its partner will be Waterstones, which has both spoken glowingly of the Nook, and has said it will be launching its own tablet later this year.

In Germany, Buchreport notes that there are several strong incumbent players, including Thalia and DBH, and these could be potential partners. Moreover, B&N already has a partnership with German bookstore aggregator BookWire.

But as with the UK, Barnes & Noble will be entering a crowded market; both Amazon and Apple are already doing very well over in Germany. A survey from the University of Hamburg noted that 57 percent of respondents had purchased books from Amazon, while 27 percent from Apple’s iBookstore.

In the Netherlands — another key market for B&N, and an obvious way of extending much of its current content given that so many there speak English — the bookseller reportedly in line for a partnership is Centraal Bookhuis.

[H/T to @arhomberg]